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J Neurophysiol. 2001 Oct;86(4):1555-72.

Reorganization in awake rat auditory cortex by local microstimulation and its effect on frequency-discrimination behavior.

Author information

1
Department of Neuroscience, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA. sanjiv@mulab.physiol.upenn.edu

Abstract

In common with other sensory cortices, the mammalian primary auditory cortex (AI) demonstrates the capacity for large-scale reorganization following many experimental situations. For example, training animals in frequency-discrimination tasks has been shown to result in an increase in cortical frequency representation. Such central changes-most commonly, an increase in central representation of specific stimulus parameters-have been hypothesized to underlie the improvements in perceptual acuity (perceptual learning) seen in many learning situations. The actual behavioral relevance of central reorganizations, however, remains speculative. Here, we directly examine this issue. We first show that stimulating the AI cortex of the awake rat with a weak electric current (intracortical microstimulation or ICMS) has the effect of inducing central reorganizations similar to those accompanying the traditional plasticity experiments (a result previously noted only in anesthetized preparations). Depending on the site of AI stimulation, ICMS enlarged the cortical representation of certain frequencies. Next we examined the direct perceptual consequences of ICMS-induced AI reorganization for the rat's ability to discriminate frequencies. Over the course of the experiment, we also detailed, and made comparisons between, the frequency-response characteristics of rat AI cortex in the awake and ketamine-anesthetized animal. AI cells that responded to pure tones were divided into two categories--strongly and weakly responsive--based on the strength of their evoked discharge. Individual cells maintained their respective response strengths in both awake and anesthetized conditions. Strongly responsive cells showed at least four different temporal responses and tended to be narrowly tuned. Their responses were stable over the long term. In general frequency-response characteristics were qualitatively similar in the anesthetized and awake animal; bandwidths tended to be broader in awake animals. Although both strong and weak cell populations respond to tones, only the strongly responsive cells fit into a tonotopically organized scheme. By contrast, weakly responsive cells did not exhibit a frequency mapping and may represent a more diffuse input to AI than that underlying strongly responsive cells. In general, the overall frequency organization of AI was found to be equally well expressed in both the awake and anesthetized rat. ICMS reorganization of AI did not alter frequency-discrimination behavior in the rat--either signal detectability or response bias--suggesting that an increase in central representation, by itself, is insufficient to account for perceptual learning. It is likely that cortical reorganizations that accompany perceptual learning are strongly keyed to specific behavioral contexts.

PMID:
11600620
DOI:
10.1152/jn.2001.86.4.1555
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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